British Airways has been warned that faults in its recruitment process could leave the company exposed to discrimination lawsuits over the information they ask candidates to supply.

A recent investigation by the BBC discovered that the flag-carrying airline issues reference requests to prospective employees, asking their previous employers to supply answers to detailed questions regarding their family obligations.

Employment lawyers have now warned the airline that asking candidates about whether or not they have children and, if yes, how much time they have taken off in the past to take care of them could violate sex discrimination laws. BA has also been told that another question that asks whether the candidate has any disabled children could be in breach of disability laws.

Sarah Veal, a representative of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), said, “It rather looks like they are going on a fishing expedition to find out information about prospective employees which gets very close to asking ‘Are you a woman?’, ‘Are you likely to take time off to have babies?’, ‘Do you have caring responsibilities that mean you are less likely to be a reliable employee?’”

When confronted with the problem, a BA spokesman stated that the information had “absolutely no influence on the recruitment process.” The spokesman said that, as the 13 weeks’ parental leave an employee is entitled to can be transferred between employers, they simply want to find out how much a particular candidate may be due.

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